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Hello; This can be a very complicated issue. The simplest, is a dirty control track head located on the output (or right side of the drum containing the video heads). It is just before the pinch roller. Clean well with isopropyl alcohol 91%. The second likely thing is a damaged tape, that has a creased bottom edge caused by a defective VCR that has excessive reel takeup torque that causes this tape to crease while playing it. Open the cassette door where the problem is and check the tape for a bottom crease. usually about a crease 1/32 of an inch or more from the bottom. Tapes that are creased cannot be saved. John
Cleaning tapes are not as good as going in with a can of Servisol Video 40 and some cotton buds. Take the top cover off and give it a really good clean with them. Clean everywhere the tape touches. Make certain you allow to dry before trying again. If that doesn't work you could have a faulty head.
PS it will take longer to clean if it is housed in a room where people smoke!
make sure you go from the cable box were it says out to the in on the vcr from the vcr you want to come out to the tvnow you can program the the vcr to pick up the cable chanell from the boxthe vcr has to be on chaell 3-4 in the front were it shows what chanell your on then the tv and the vcr are to be on the wright cahells the tv has to line up with the chaell your useing for the vcr3-4 to make this less complicated put a tape in the vcr hit play if its playing you are on the right chanel you do not have to have the vcr to watch cable it will go threw even if vcr is off just have to be right chanel
A CONSTANT streak anywhere on the screen could be a scratch in the tape itself. Losing sound, and ocassionally everything going to black and white, sounds like a dirty control track head.(The audio and control track are in the SAME head (a 3/4" metal cube that the videotape travels on). The control track section is on the upper part, and the audio on on the lower part.
If the control track head's dirty I'm sure the rotary head's dirty too! Losing audio and have tracking problems, point to dirt. And you MAY have SO much dirt built up on that head it's scatching your tapes (unrepairable), and causing you problems. Make sense?
Depending on WHICH model VCR you have (old or new) SOME have a switch which will allow you to adjust tracking MANUALLY. When the switch is in the manual position, it won't track automatically. If some played with that switch, that could cause your problem.
ALSO, do you have a cleaning tape? If the control track head is dirty, it won't see the "control track" (which gives you VCR information to control the tracking.
Another possibility is one of the video heads (there's 2 or 4) is dirty, and without ENOUGH video signal coming off the heads, it's not possible to track properly.
Try running a cleaning tape through. If you've never done it, it might be time. Unless yu know about equipment I'd wouldn't suggest you open the machine and clean it yourself. Let me know how you make out.